Heather Fitzenhagen files for SD 27, setting up clash with Ray Rodrigues
Heather Fitzenhagen.

Fitzenhagen horizontal
That means she's leaving her run for Congress behind.

Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen has dropped her run for Congress and instead is running for an open seat in the Florida Senate.

“After a lot of soul searching, I made the decision to run,” Fitzenhagen told Florida Politics after filing for Senate District 27.

In the Republican primary, she faces Rep. Ray Rodrigues, an Estero Republican, who announced in May last year.

Fitzenhagen, who was elected to the House in the same class as Rodrigues, said she held her opponent in high regard. But she felt voters deserve a choice in the primary and feels her record on the environment and economy should give voters confidence in her abilities.

“We have to rebuild the economy from the ground up here,” she said. “We have a fragile economy built on clean water, and we already have green algal blooms in Lake Okeechobee. We can’t risk our economy taking another hit.”

It’s not the first time she has shown interest in the Senate. Last year Fitzenhagen considered the run but ultimately said the race seemed financially prohibitive.

In fact, Rodrigues has been a prolific fundraiser.

But Fitzenhagen, who can’t seek another House term because of term limits, didn’t leave the political stage. She ran for Congress when Francis Rooney announced he would not seek a third term representing Florida’s 19th Congressional District.

That field quickly grew to one of the most crowded in the state, with 10 Republicans qualifying for the ballot. As of the end of the first quarter, she had raised more than $110,000 for the campaign but lagged behind several other candidates, including businessmen Casey Askar and William Figlesthaler, fellow Reps. Dane Eagle and Byron Donalds and Fort Myers Mayor Randy Handerson.

Ultimately, Fitzenhagen said the political environment has just changed so much amid the COVID-19 pandemic and challenging economy.

“In the big picture, the landscape of the U.S. and of Florida is so different than when I decided to run for Congress,” she said. “At that point the economy was going good and there was no pandemic on the horizon. Then all of the sudden the bottom dropped out. I had thought there was more good work to be done in Washington, but at this point I feel the place to serve is in my community and in Florida.”

Rumors swirled earlier this year of a poll in Southwest Florida contrasting Fitzenhagen and Rodrigues in a hypothetical Senate matchup, though no one copped to fielding the survey.

“I will need to do some polling now, so I would be interested in seeing that poll of course,” Fitzenhagen said. “But I would just ask voters to look at my track record. I have always been a pragmatic problem solver.”

In a Republican primary, she’s sure to face question about a record on issues like abortion (she voted against a parental consent bill this year) and gun control (she supported the Parkland bill).

But Fitzenhagen said she feels her strong business record as chair of the House Business and Professional Regulation Committee will verify her conservative credentials.

Regardless, Fitzenhagen enjoyed a bit of media attention both for her Senate run and for vocal support of a lockdown in Lee County. She also spearheaded efforts to help Immokalee farmworkers facing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The race instantly turns the GOP primary in District 27 into a top tier race in Florida this August. Rodrigues already boasts backing from Senate Republican leadership, though Fitzenhagen boasts strong relationships with members of the Southwest Florida congressional delegation.

Democrat Rachel Brown also qualified for the Senate race on Friday.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


4 comments

  • Clifferton Curry

    June 12, 2020 at 4:04 pm

    Good for her. Wish shed just move to SD 20 so that us in the trial bar can replace one puppet with another
    Oh well guess well just back democrats like we do in every other competitive district. Dont worry

    • Clif Curry

      June 15, 2020 at 12:18 pm

      Obviously this comment is from a troll who doesn’t have the fortitude to use his or her own name. Both Republican candidates for SD 27 are exceptional public servants as was former Senate President Tom Lee who served District 20.
      Clif Curry

  • Harold Finch

    June 15, 2020 at 8:41 am

    Heather Fitzenhagen was one of the all-time most ineffective House members I have encounered in my 20 years working in the legislative process. She is a puppet and employee for Trial Lawyer John Morgan, she could not mkae a decision as Subcommitte Chairman without former Cahirman and her boyfriend Halsey Bershears telling her what to do!!

    I personnaly met with her to discuss several very bad provisions in the dereg bill and she had no idea what the bill would do and could not even converse about it!! She was a pathetic legislator and would be abhorent as a Congressman!!!!

  • Florida Voice for the Unborn

    June 15, 2020 at 1:19 pm

    Rep. Fitzenhagen is a radical pro-abortion politician. Earlier this year, she not only voted against the parental-consent-prior-to-an-abortion legislation, but she also vocally chastised her fellow Republicans for bringing that commonsense legislation to the floor for a vote. While Florida Voice for the Unborn does not get involved in electoral politics, nonetheless we firmly believe that voters will see through Rep. Fitzenhagen’s latest “soul-searching” charade and that she will not return to Tallahassee as a state senator.

Comments are closed.


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